Comment on NMFS’ Proposed Rules authorizing IHAs for Navy SURTASS LFA Sonar Activities

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service published Federal Register notice that NMFS has received a request from the U.S. Navy for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to the use of Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low Frequency Active sonar systems onboard U.S. Navy surveillance ships for training and testing activities in the western and central North Pacific Ocean and eastern Indian Ocean beginning August 2019.

Pursuant to section 101(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA, NMFS requests comments on its proposal to issue regulations to govern the incidental take of marine mammals by Level B harassment during these SURTASS LFA sonar activities. The Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed on August 13, 2018, amended the Marine Mammal Protection Act to extend the maximum authorization period of permitted incidental takings of marine mammals under section 101(a)(5)(A) in the course of specified military readiness activities by the Department of Defense from five to seven years. Therefore, the authorization, if issued, would be in effect from August 2019 to August 2026.

NMFS will consider public comments prior to making any final decision on the issuance of the requested MMPA authorization and agency responses will be summarized in the final notice of our decision. The Navy’s activities are considered military readiness activities pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), as amended by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (FY 2004 NDAA).

Comments and information must be received by NMFS no later than April 1, 2019.

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